Review of They Call Her Fregona: A Border Kid’s Poems

They Call Her Fregona: A Border Kid’s Poems They Call Her Fregona: A Border Kid’s Poems
by David Bowles
Middle School     Kokila/Penguin    256 pp.         g
9/22     978-0-593-46257-7     $17.99
Spanish ed.  978-1-64473-577-0    $12.95

The Rio Grande’s gifted young poet Güero ( They Call Me Güero , rev. 11/18) continues to render the stark beauty of the Southwest border landscapes and the pain experienced by loved ones in this evocative sequel. This time, the narrative centers on the deportation of Güero’s ­middle-school sweetheart Joanna’s (a.k.a. Fregona’s) father, Don Adán, and la Fregona’s impossible courage que no se raja to protect her family. Güero’s poetry bears witness to the community’s grief, anger, and activism inspired by the determination to reunify Joanna’s family. Readers also see the more tender moments, which lend insight into the emotional landscape of Güero’s young love for Joanna as it grows in maturity. Throughout, Bowles develops the plot using multiple poetic forms—sijo, linked sestains, sonnets, sedōka, rubaiyat quatrains. He also includes Chicano caló—a linguistic form and argot of Chicanx and Mexican Southwestern people—by incorporating Güero’s and his friend Bobby Lee’s Korean/Spanish slang. Güero embraces this mix of tradition and contemporary youth culture by, for example, dedicating his band’s rendition of the classic Norteño corrido “El Palomito” to Don Adán, who like la palomita is apart from those who yearn for his return. A glossary of terms is appended.

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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